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Renaissance - Ashes Are Burning CD (album) cover

ASHES ARE BURNING

Renaissance

 

Symphonic Prog

4.22 | 741 ratings

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bfmuller
4 stars Unlike most Renaissance listeners, I prefer Prologue to this one. The main reason stays in what lies between the opening and the closing tracks.

Can You Understand? further develops the exploration on reworking of classical music started on the previous albums and mostly evident there in Kiev. It is certainly a bigger achievement in this field, and solely better than any track on Prologue.

Ashes Are Burning, the closing, title track, on the other hand, is probably the major classic of the band and a central piece in the band's concerts from then on (many times the closing act), but sounds less "classical". This is not to say that it is less good for this reason. Its fame is very well justified. The song is basically divided in four parts. The first section has a piano with a jazz touch (at least to my ears) acompanied by Annie's vocals. An instrumental section follows, a bit more classically influenced (maybe because of the harpsichord). Next comes a slower, darker section with organ solo. Annie returns for the last part, and the song is closed by another instrumental passage with prominent bass and (great) electric guitar (for the last time in the band's classic albums). Worth notice, however, that this track earned most of its fame because of its live act. It was the oportunity for the band to showcase their improvisational skills, having a much longer version, including bass solo and vocal improvisations. Compared to the live version (available in "Live at Carnegie Hall"), the "official" studio version loses some brilliance (especially if you, like me, happened to listen to the live one first).

In between, we have three most evidently pop-oriented songs that fade in comparison not only to the progressivetracks, but also to their counterparts from Prologue. Where "Spare Some Love" echoes the sixties and is filled with some nice guitar work that gives it a certain charm and balance, Let It Grow, acoustic, with sing-along coda and grand piano sounds cheesy, while the shared vocals and weak melody in On the Frontier makes it uninspired and forgettable. The best achievement in the "pop" section is Carpet of the Sun, the shorter track of the album, with good melody and vocals (Annie sings alone here), plus typical hippie peace-and-love lyrics. It is a good track, but evidently not up to the standards set by Can You Understand?.

Before the closing track comes yet another song, The Harbour, this time exploring the "formula" piano-and-vocal. After a long piano introduction (this one clearly classically oriented), Annie sings, and then the piece is finished with another piano passage. It is different and interesting, accounting for the third best track of the album.

In all, this album seems more imbalanced than the previous one, although there are no radical differences in the band's sound from one track to another, unlike Prologue (but this was one of the appeals of that album). This makes Ashes Are Burning something of a transitional album between the more pop/psychedelic early influence and the classically oriented albums that follow, plus the definitive abandonment of the electric guitar.

Mostly because of the power of the title track, it became Renaissance's most comercially successful album, but this fact is not true neither to the band's style nor to its best works (including the previous one, in my opinion). Still, the weaker songs account to less then 10 minutes, and the excelency of Can You Understand? and Ashes Are Burning alone justify its place in any prog collection.

bfmuller | 4/5 |

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